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6 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress: is Exercise the Key?

04/02/2020

Workplace stress is something most of us can empathise with, but how can we tackle this issue? Read on to discover my top strategies for dealing with workplace stress…

We’ve all been there before; the dread each morning on hearing your alarm sound, and the overwhelming urge to remain in bed. Sometimes, it can feel as though the only light at the end of the tunnel is the clock hitting 5.30pm, and the commute home towards comfort.

Newsflash: life doesn’t have to be this way!

The average working person spends more waking hours at work each week than they do at home with their loved ones. This just emphasises how important it is to feel satisfied and happy in your workplace.

In this article, I’ll be letting you in on my top strategies for managing stress in the workplace, showing that exercise and healthy living really does work wonders. Not only this, but I’ll also touch upon your employee rights, so that you know the avenues you can take in dealing with this common problem. For all this, and more, don’t go anywhere…

This woman leaning over her desk with her head in her hands is clearly experiencing workplace stress

You’re Not Alone: Workplace Stress Statistics

According to UK 2019 statistics, around 39 percent of Brits are stressed at work at least once a week. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, 15 percent of the British population feel stressed at work every single day. With our modern emphasis on the importance of maintaining positive mental health, these numbers are shocking.

The one positive you might be able to take from all this? You’re not alone. In fact, if we delve into the top 10 causes of stress at work, it’s clear that these issues are as rife as the common house spider. Some major workplace stress causes include:

  1. Bullying or harassment in the workplace
  2. Lack of job security/fear of being fired
  3. Poor relationships with colleagues
  4. Low pay
  5. Expectations to stay late, or inability to work flexibly
  6. Environmental factors, such as workplace temperature, noise, overcrowding, or poor facilities
  7. The feeling of being watched by your superiors
  8. Heavy workload
  9. Stressful or long commute
  10. Brexit

How Do You Know if You’re Stressed at Work?

According to Unison.org, work-related stress is actually one of the most common health hazards in the workplace. In fact, 500,000 people within the UK have reported feeling ill as one of the effects of stress in the workplace.

Sometimes, workplace stress can be a positive force, helping to increase motivation and boost productivity. That said, this is often not the case, which is why it’s important to be able to identify the symptoms of workplace stress. Some of the main stress at work symptoms you may recognise include:

  • Altered appetite, leading to weight gain or loss;
  • Anxiety and/or depression, or just a low mood;
  • Irritability, and even outbursts of anger;
  • Insomnia, which involves difficulty sleeping and/or waking up each morning;
  • Headaches or backaches;
  • A sense of dread every morning, and an unwillingness to turn up, resulting in sick days;
  • Low productivity and lack of job satisfaction;
  • Receptiveness to cold and flu;
  • And shortness of breath.

These symptoms can have further repercussions on your mind and body, potentially leading to substance abuse, be it alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. What’s more, these seemingly minor symptoms can lead to life-altering problems, including stomach ulcers, heart disease, or detrimental mental health problems.

This woman smoking due to workplace stress could experience even worse symptoms which could prove life-threatening

How Can You Reduce Workplace Stress?

As you can see, workplace stress is no joke, and can really wear away at your mind, body, and soul. That’s why I’ve put together this list of ways to help you to tackle workplace stress. Let’s just say, it really isn’t rocket science, and is a lot simpler than you may think…

1. Walk to and From Work

Many people complain about their daily commute; it’s certainly rough having to spend over an hour each day trekking to the workplace. That said, whether it be through walking or public transport, your daily commute is your one chance to be alone with your thoughts each day.

One of the best ways you can make the most of this time is by walking to a from work. This has many benefits, both physical and mental. In fact, regular mild exercise like this can improve your mood and provide stress relief, helping you clear your mind.

What about if your work is too far away to walk? No problem, just try getting off the bus a few stops earlier than normal. Or perhaps you normally grab an uber or a bus from the train station? Take a walk instead, and you’ll save money, and get that regular exercise before a long day in the office.

2. Take Yoga Classes

Yoga has become a really popular activity these days. That said, we really shouldn’t be surprised with the growing popularity of this form of exercise, considering its many physical benefits. Some of these include:

  • Improved muscle strength and tone;
  • Increased balance and flexibility;
  • Improved metabolism, which can lead to weight loss;
  • And an improvement in heart and circulatory health.

That said, it’s not just physical benefits that make yoga such a great extra-curricular activity to take on. Due to the incorporation of self-control, breathing, exercise, and meditation, yoga is actually a proven method of managing stress. By promoting mental clarity, calmness, and bodily control, this really is a fantastic option for reducing workplace stress.

This woman doing yoga on a building is practicing self control and mental clarity to help tackle workplace stress

3. Try CBD Products

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the main non-psychoactive chemical compound of the marijuana plant. Although it won’t get you high, its stress-reducing properties are becoming more and more prevalent.

CBD can be found in a number of forms, including oils, tablets, and drinks, and can even be purchased in supermarkets these days! So, whether it be incorporating it within your cooking, or purchasing a ready-made product to consume, this could be a viable quick fix.

4. Honour Your Hobbies

One of the greatest benefits of maintaining your hobbies is the distraction they provide from the daily grind, and the social interaction they illicit. Spending all day at work means you’re surrounded by the same people each day. Taking this time to exercise and clear your mind means you’ll also have the chance to meet new people who don’t remind you of the workplace.

So, whether they be sports, gaming, drawing, writing, reading, or anything else in between, making time for your favourite past-times is super important.

5. Listen to Music

It’s clear that music can act as a great coping mechanism for many people, helping to regulate their emotions. Coupled with this, many studies have shown that there is a positive link between listening to music and a healthy mind.

But why is this? Well, according to studies, music increases the speed in which the autonomic nervous system recovers from a stressful experience. So, after a bout of workplace stress, music can improve your ability to get over these hurdles, and move on.

6. Eat Well

Food has the power to energise and revitalise your body, helping you to feel more in control. It also has the power to aid your sleep, which is super important in ensuring you remain stress-free throughout the day. But what, exactly, does eating well mean?

Well, eating a rainbow is one of those typical phrases people spout, but it’s a great place to start. Choosing fruit and vegetables of all different colours, means you’ll be on a roll. Couple this with proteins, including meat, dairy, beans, and pulses, creates the main basis of eating well.

Stress is a known factor in affecting blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the brain, deteriorating brain health along the way. By filling your body with vital vitamins and minerals, you’ll be well on your way to improving this blood flow. This will inherently reduce stress; it’s surprising what a healthy and balanced diet can do!

Eating a fruit and vegetable rainbow is one of the best ways to reduce workplace stress

What Are Your Work Related Stress Rights?

As we’ve already seen, certain levels of stress in the workplace can be beneficial. However, excessive stress can lead to mental health issues, which can affect an employee’s quality of life. Exercise and stress management can only go so far, so what more can you do to tackle this problem

Well, unbeknownst to many, your employer is responsible for the health and safety of their employees, and this includes stress-related problems. Due to this, the employer has a lawful responsibility to investigate any issue which leads to workplace stress that they become aware of.

The key note to take away from this? Don’t be afraid to tell your employer how you feel. If you feel stressed in the workplace, enough to notify your employer, they have an obligation to help you.

Mental Health vs. Your Job: Should You Quit?

So, there we have it; my top six ways of reducing workplace stress. It’s certainly clear that exercise is one of the keys to improving your overall health and wellbeing, including tackling stressful times.

That said, if you’ve exhausted every avenue, be it exercise, legal, or otherwise, quitting your job is your next step. No workplace or job role is worth sticking around for if your mental health is at risk. Don’t suffer in silence.